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Astronomer proposes ET 'halo drive' concept

By T.K. Randall
March 17, 2019 · Comment icon 11 comments

Black holes could provide the energy to travel at relativistic speeds. Image Credit: NASA / Mark Rademaker
A new theory suggests that aliens could fire lasers at black holes to help propel their ships through space.
In a new paper, Columbia University astronomer David Kipping has put forward a hypothetical new propulsion system that an advanced extraterrestrial race could use to achieve relativistic speeds.

The idea is an extension of a method that we already use to boost our own space probes - using the gravity of a planet or other large body to 'slingshot' a spacecraft towards its target.

The same basic principles also apply to the intense gravity wells around black holes.

If a photon (a particle of light) is fired at a particular area around a black hole if will circle around and be flung back in the direction from which it came while carrying more energy than it started with.
This phenomenon is known as a 'gravitational mirror'.

Kipping's 'halo drive' would work by firing a laser beam at a specific point within the vicinity of a binary black hole system so that the newly energized photons are directed straight back at the spacecraft where they would be converted in to momentum - propelling it along at considerable speed.

This process can be repeated over and over to continue accelerating the spacecraft.

Kipping argues that an extraterrestrial civilization may be using such a system to travel throughout our galaxy - especially given the copious quantities of black holes that are known to be out there.

Exactly how the spacecraft would slow down once it reaches its destination however remains unclear.

Source: NBC News | Comments (11)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by gadfly21 5 years ago
Interesting variation of the hypothetical Kugel-Blitz starship. Using ye ole black hole to pump your lasers versus using the black hole itself to warp you around. I don't see how the moved black hole would tell you it was really ET starships that did it though.
Comment icon #3 Posted by tmcom 5 years ago
Far better to use Cern to trap our own, and then use those little suckers for our own purposes. Using lazers to control them, for an infinite power source, or using three to create a time dilation bubble. We have been able to capture a small amount of antimatter, so it is not as sci, fi as it seems. Give it 100 years give or take.
Comment icon #4 Posted by bison 5 years ago
Yes, such a propulsion system would be easiest to use for a civilization residing near twin black holes.  I don't believe it would be too practical to have the ship and the laser beam source at interstellar distances from the black hole. They would presumably travel to the black holes' vicinity, and then use it for propulsion. It would probably be useful to have a colony planet, or at least a base on a planet as near the black holes as possible, consistent with safety.  Recalling the radiation resistant properties of graphite, perhaps a thin film of this could serve for the light sail, ... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by bison 5 years ago
It was suggested that 'stealing' kinetic energy from black hole pairs could eventually cause them to merge, presumably in a manner  inconsistent with what could be expected from them naturally. It was also suggested that the orbits of the utilized black holes around one another could be rendered more eccentric than expected.  
Comment icon #6 Posted by marsman 5 years ago
even at the speed of light it takes 200,000 years to cross our own galaxy man and any aliens wont live long enough  to make the journey   It Would Take 200,000 Years at Light Speed to Cross the Milky Way  
Comment icon #7 Posted by acute 5 years ago
This is a totally redundant argument! The idea that an advanced alien species would use our primitive combustion methods of propulsion is laughable. It will be the Black Hole method, space-time bending, or some other wizardry that we can't even imagine.
Comment icon #8 Posted by marsman 5 years ago
  if it cant be cant be done.....can it?
Comment icon #9 Posted by marsman 5 years ago
  assuming they even exist
Comment icon #10 Posted by acute 5 years ago
We've only had electric lighting for about 150 years. Two hundred years before that, you would have been burned or drowned as a witch for having a functioning light-bulb. Things move on, and we learn more stuff.  In the grand scheme of things, we only recently had the Industrial Revolution!  We've got loads to learn, and we're not even close.
Comment icon #11 Posted by marsman 5 years ago
  "But there are very strong indications that wormholes that a human could travel through are forbidden by the laws of physics. That's sad, that's unfortunate, but that's the direction in which things are pointing."

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